FANTASIA22 REVIEW: Incroyable mais vrai [Incredible But True] [2022]

Rating: 7 out of 10.
  • Rating: NR | Runtime: 74 minutes
    Release Date: June 15th, 2022 (France)
    Studio: Diaphana Films / Arrow Films
    Director(s): Quentin Dupieux
    Writer(s): Quentin Dupieux

There’s a jewel?

We all get older. It’s a part of life. Some do so gracefully. Others racked with fear. What’s interesting, and a major component of Quentin Dupieux‘s latest absurdist comedy Incroyable mais vrai [Incredible But True], is that few know which they are until they confront a potential avenue to cheat aging altogether. That’s the case with Alain (Alain Chabat) and Marie Duval (Léa Drucker). If we asked them how they felt about the subject at the start of the film, they’d probably say they hadn’t really thought about it. They’re happy. They enjoy their life together and are about to buy their first house in the suburbs. What they can’t know then is that the house they’re buying has a secret that forces them to think very carefully.

It’s a duct in the floor of the basement. Marie assumes it’s a sewer entrance with its ladder downwards, but the real estate agent (Stéphane Pezerat‘s Franck) assures them it’s something much more exciting. She’s tentative to follow him. Alain is intrigued by the prospect of a story to tell later. Eventually they descend, blind to the possibilities of what awaits. And it’s with good reason too since they wouldn’t have believed their agent if he tried to explain. It’s the sort of thing you must experience first and ask questions later. Questions like: How did we go in at night and come out during the day? Or: How did we go down a hole lowering beneath the basement only to come out a hole onto the second floor?

Well, the temporal phenomenon occurring proves even more complicated once Franck sits down to work through this “feature” that has him readying for a bidding war. While he’s completely ignorant to the impossible spatial problem, he can at least quantify the impossible time shift. Even though the journey seems quick, you will always come out of the tube twelve hours after the time you went in. And that’s just the fact you can notice with your eyes. There’s also the bonus of exiting three days younger. So, this house is a veritable time machine, albeit one with very specific parameters. By “losing” twelve hours, you “gain” three days. How can you not be captivated by the prospect? The Duvals are popping champagne to celebrate the purchase shortly thereafter.

That’s when we discover who they really are. Alain lives in the now. He sees only what’s in front of him rather than behind and he’s comfortable with that preference. Give him the choice between going into the duct to incrementally grow younger or using that time to sleep and seize the next busy day at work and he’ll pick the latter every time. Marie is different. She proves to be more of a dreamer who sees this magical gift as a way towards changing her lot. The promise of youth takes hold of her mind like an addiction. She cannot stop herself from going back again and again, leaving Alain to fend for himself above ground during his daily grind. Her goal: become twenty and pursue modeling.

Anyone familiar with Dupieux knows that one crazy gimmick isn’t enough. Rather than stick with a single philosophical quandary turned farcical parable, he includes a second via Alain’s friend and boss Gérard (Benoît Magimel). It just so happens he and his girlfriend (Anaïs Demoustier‘s Jeanne) live nearby with their own “secret” to share. Similar to the Duvals’ conundrum of youth is Gérard’s quest for sustainable vitality. He’s a womanizer and keen to satisfy his numerous partners, so he replaces his human penis with an electronic one that he can steer with his iPhone. Jeanne is a fan because she likes sex. Gérard sees it as a way of keeping the only part of his anatomy he “needs” young. And Alain can do nothing but laugh at the insanity.

The film therefore continues from his perspective as a witness to the myriad troubles this line of thinking provides. He’s helpless to watch his wife and friend lose themselves to vanity and in turn grow more hostile and bitter as a result. What do these “fixes” actually fix, though? Marie will still be fifty regardless of how she ends up looking. Alain will still be victim to malfunction as erectile disfunction is replaced by the same inevitable risk of breakage that comes with owning any appliance. They’re wearing masks to hide themselves from reality without any assurances that what they’ll achieve in return is anything better than the depressing sense of obsolescence they fear from doing nothing. Their fates will probably end up worse than they initially imagined.

It’s a simple journey from hope to despair and Dupieux is a master at not wasting time to bog things down with unnecessary excess. He even goes so far as orchestrating a ten-minute wordless montage spanning five years (if my duct math to turn fifty-year-old Drucker into twenty-year-old Roxane Arnal is correct) full of the comical frustrations and unavoidable suffering that comes from trying to cheat nature. And all the while Alain is left to pick up the slack both in his personal (taking responsibility for everything while Marie lives in the temporal anomaly) and professional life (putting out figurative and literal fires courtesy of Gérard caring about nothing but his libido). All he wants is to live with what he has. When did that suddenly become quaint?

The humor has it’s laugh-out-loud moments despite a relatively subdued overall tone. We’re often laughing at these characters’ pain, so that uncertainty of whether to gloat or wince comes with the territory. Drucker and Magimel have the most to do considering they’re the ones falling prey to delusion, but it’s Chabat’s show as his Alain attempts to traverse the minefield of being impotent to save them from themselves. The way he must call his wife when her fridge message about seeing him “tomorrow” confuses him considering it only takes her minutes to chew through twenty-four hours or buy a birthday gift at the supermarket for Jeanne while Gérard is away getting his penis fixed provides Chabat a showcase for exasperation. Talk about needing a vacation from your life.

courtesy of Arrow Films

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